Escape Rooms and Therapy

A friend recently told me about their experience trying out Bend Escape Room. In case you are not sure what I am talking about here is a summary of the games growing popularity.

I had two take aways from listening:

One, people are genuinely interested in spending more time with other human beings. In a world with exponential growth in technology and a variety of ways to avoid human interactions, things like Escape Rooms, outdoor sports and recreation, therapy, coaching, and shared office spaces keep growing and growing. It seems every time I hear of a potential job market becoming obsolete I hear an equal increase in these interactive spaces.

Secondly, people are searching for paths to connection. There is a shift in society from behind the computer screen to these spaces where ideas are built upon and connections form. It seems there is an underlying realization that human beings need each other. We need collaboration, cooperation, and all of the fine skills required.

Psychotherapy not only provides the skills necessary for collaboration and cooperation, it is also a space to try out those skills. After all, psychotherapy in my opinion should be an exercise in my expertise in relationships/emotional wellbeing and my client’s expertise in their own life. Therapy requires us to work collaboratively and cooperate toward a shared goal. Those skills then translate to your friends, family, and professional environments… which then translates to their friends, family, and professional environments.

It is all about connection!

Thanksgiving Guilt

Last year at this time I addressed boundaries and how to use them effectively to have a good holiday season.

After giving a presentation to my community about boundaries and family of choice I heard a resounding theme.

Guilt.

It seemed the crowd had a great grasp on the concept of boundaries including how to use them and how to make them effective. The questions came as we shifted the focus to family of choice.

Family of choice refers to those who find the holidays are best spent with the family members they have chosen. Some times these are blood relatives, some times they are friends collected along the way.  These are the people who make up the inner circle of your world. They are the people you trust fully and are there for you through thick and thin.

Two reminders:

  1. Guilt is a feeling associated with doing something wrong. Usually intentionally wrong. Or how dictionary.com puts it “the fact or state of having committed an offense, crime, violation, or wrong, especially against moral or penal law; culpability:He admitted his guilt.

  2. When one gets married and especially when they have children, this is your family. Parents, siblings, and other relationships take a back seat to your marriage and children.

I suggest another word for the feeling associated with recognizing that a family of choice doesn’t include a parent(s) or sibling(s).

Sad.

It sucks. No one in the world likes recognizing that a family member or someone they were raised by or raised with has a negative impact on them and their partner or children. And often those who need to build a family of choice the most have given way too much time, thought, consideration, and has given too many second chances.

Let go. Grieve. And give yourself permission to spend your holidays with people who make you feel loved, connected, and cared about.

 

 

When to seek Couples Therapy:

It can be difficult to tell when you need outside help in your relationship. Relationships go through phases just like people and sometimes the stress we feel is simply a point of growth. However, when the stress or issue begins to inhibit growth and linger, it’s important to tend to the issue. Also if these behaviors or interactions occur for a long period of time or become primary ways of coping in the relationship they are red flags.

  1. You stop talking and start avoiding: Is there a topic you can no longer discuss because both of you get to mad or hurt? Is there a topic that you have discussed at great length with no resolution or understanding? When both partners begin giving up on finding understanding, it is an issue. It can be beneficial to have a professional guide you two to better understanding of one another instead of just avoiding.
  2. Withholding affection or stonewalling: when one or both partners participate in this behavior it is dooming the relationship. The good news is it’s just a coping skill, with therapy you can find more productive ways to move through issues.
  3. Keeping secrets: It doesn’t matter if they are financial, emotional, or any other type of secret, keeping secrets in a long term relationship doesn’t work.
  4. If you feel like the only problem is your partner. That isn’t how relationships work. It takes two people to build a relationship and chances are your behavior or attitude could be fueling what you don’t like in your partner. Keeping yourself stuck in the victim seat only prevents both of you from growing together building the life you do want.
  5. When one or both of you can no longer lighten up once in a while. When the topics or issues being avoided or the pattern that gets you two no where is so large you are no longer having date nights or having a good time together that’s when it is time to see a professional. Relationships need care and attention to survive.

 

Showing up for life 

The theme of my week has been the importance of showing up. In a world where with the click of a mouse and/or the swipe of a debit card we can send condolences, comfort, and pseudo connection I’ve been struck by the power of showing up. No one can read your mind and often our intentions are assumed by others. By showing up we communicate our thoughts and intent clearly. 

Here are some ideas of how to show up in your life for those most important to you:

Take flowers to someone

Say thank you in person

Look people in the eye

Compliment what you admire

Shake someone’s hand

If you love them, say it! Again and again.

When you feel the urge to say just about anything to make someone feel better; hug them instead.

Hold your loved ones hand

Be patient with emotion. Feelings come and go but some linger… that’s ok.

Human interaction truly matters. Don’t let the digital world fool you into thinking otherwise.

Co-Couples Therapy

To be honest, I am just as surprised as you.

There is a part of me that has been trained by our society to believe that there is no way something I enjoy so much could benefit the world. Isn’t work supposed to be dull and mundane?

Long ago when I graduated with my masters degree in marriage and family therapy and Michael started his, we had hoped one day to work together. At that time, we thought working together in our own private practice built on our convictions was the dream.

Instead, over the last year we have found our calling.

Working with couples together.

I am intentional about naming it a “calling.” It isn’t niche, we didn’t build this practice with this service in mind. We have yet to discover a sustainable way to bill or market it, but it is working. We are seeing couple after couple walk away reporting a stronger more fulfilling relationship. We are helping couples identify what is working for them and the narratives or beliefs that hold them back. We are creating a space in which more perspectives equates more options. We hold space for gender roles and rules, not just from one genders perspective.

Stop in for a free 20 minute consultation to see if this is calling you too!

Call – text – connect  (541) 639-2986

 

 

Unified Couples

“One of the largest, strongest horses in the world is the Belgian draft horse. Competitions are held to see which horse can pull the most, and one Belgian can pull eight thousand pounds. The weird thing is if you put two Belgian horses in the harness who are strangers to each other, together they can pull twenty to twenty four thousand pounds. Two can pull not twice as much as one but three times as much as one. This example represents the power of synergy. However, if the two horses are raised and trained together they can learn to pull and think as one. The trained, and therefore unified, pair can pull not only twenty four thousand pounds but will hit thirty to thirty-two thousand pounds. The unified pair can pull an extra eight thousand pounds simply by being unified.” – Dave Ramsey EntreLeadership

Early on in my career as a Marriage and Family Therapist I could sense the power of  working with couples. For many therapists and counselors it is fear inducing to be in a room with two people who are so in sync. However, I have always found it intriguing. Couples who are committed to one another and share a future, are powerful both in their relationship and individually. There is a synergy that gets created between two people. And when couples are unified, nearly every area of their life is impacted with that power.

At the same time, that same energy can also tear couples apart. And it can happen quickly. Like I shared in a previous blog, 3 Reasons Couples Therapy is so Important, when couples face issues it can feel terribly isolating. On top of that, it is common for partners to begin to build elaborate stories about the hows, whats, and whys their partner is hurting them. Assumptions start to compound the issues and suddenly a miscommunication feels like a free fall into the abyss for both partners.

I always remind couples that their job is to work together and put me out of work. It seems couples therapy is always more work up front than people anticipate and at the same time, when communication and connection starts to improve the synergy snaps back much faster than they anticipated.

Cultivate and nurture that synergy. It makes a couple a force to be reckoned with!

 

 

 

 

 

bound·a·ry ˈbound(ə)rē/

In my field of work, sometimes words and phrases get a bit overused. Terms like “co-dependence” or even diagnoses like “bipolar” start to get used in society where they don’t apply. That overuse makes terms get distorted. The term’s meaning becomes part pop culture and part industry specific making them no longer the concise description they used to be.

The term “boundaries” is one such word. I find in my practice, I hear more and more people describe that they know they need them but they feel uncertain about how to go about implementing boundaries.

Let’s tease out the term boundary to start. The dictionary states a boundary is, “a line that marks the limits of an area; a dividing line.” The term’s meaning in pop culture is often, “a nebulous thing you should do to prevent your aunt from making you uncomfortable.” What a boundary is in a relationship is the line that separates your expectations and comfortability from another person’s. In other words, it is simply the line that defines what you are comfortable with and what you will accept.

Part of what makes boundaries confusing is that so many are decided by society.  We collectively decide things like how close is too close to talk to a stranger or that it is kind to hold the door for someone. Those types of boundaries are covert. A lot of people do them so from the time you are very young, you begin implementing these boundaries. This happens in families too. Family members collectively decide covert boundaries or rules like, it’s important to watch football on Thanksgiving. No one says it out loud but magically every Thanksgiving the game is on the TV.

The boundaries often referred to in therapy are the overt boundaries. For whatever reason, they require that you state your preference. These become important for people like in-laws or new relationships. Since they didn’t evolve around the same covert boundaries they need descriptions.

Where I see people get stuck is thinking that this is the same thing as confronting someone. It may feel uncomfortable to state your boundary to someone you care about, but that is only because as a society we don’t communicate all of our boundaries. It is just a conversation that doesn’t happen often. Boundaries only become a confrontation when they are not communicated for a long time. The relationship goes on and on with one person feeling walked on and then the boundary doesn’t really get stated at all but rather the built up anger gets expressed. This damages the relationship. Not only does one person feel walked on and hurt but the other person was never even given a chance to respect this undefined boundary.

Think about what you need from a difficult relationship or the behaviors that make you feel walked on. What could be different? What is in the other person’s control? Would it help if they asked you? Could they call ahead of time? Maybe there is subject best left out of Thanksgiving conversation.

Often people know intuitively what needs to stop or what boundary they need to set. But before people state their boundary they say the three words heard in therapy rooms across America, “Is it ok?” These overt boundaries have to be overt because they are not widely accepted or implemented in society. So they are personal. There is no societal norm to compare your boundary to and that makes it feel uncomfortable.

So there are two components to the discomfort of implementing a boundary:

  1. There is no comparison. This boundary is just between you and this person.
  2. Stating boundaries takes conscious effort because so many boundaries are covert.

Remember that these boundaries not only free you from feeling intruded upon they also set the other person free from worrying about overstepping. Boundaries clarify, prevent arguments and hurt feelings. They also give the other person a chance to show they can be trusted and it feels good to feel trusted.

With all of that being said, what are one or two boundaries you could state to help you have a healthy and happy Thanksgiving?

Happy Thanksgiving 🙂

 

Listen to Understand

the-biggest-communication-problem-is-we-do-not-listen-to-understand-we-listen-to-reply
Seems simple, huh?

Some times therapy gets boiled down to simple tasks. I was reminded of this while taking voice lessons. My instructor continually pushes me to “stand up straight… but not too straight.” At first this felt so frustrating. Number 1; I felt often that I was standing up straight. Number 2; I understand it is important but sheesh, how much time can one really spend practicing something that should come naturally.

In therapy, this shows up as discussing simple communication. It is a vital part of our existence as human beings and since we learn from a young age it feels as though it should just function automatically. People, places, and experiences begin shaping our communication at the same time that we are learning. No one learns perfect communication and then can just go back to that perfect pattern. Instead, just like posture, we learn ways of being that get us by. They function to protect or to serve us in ways we may not have even thought about. Therefore, letting go of that old posture or communication pattern (or habit) can feel uncomfortable…. just like me singing standing up straight but  not too straight.

Try giving yourself of others permission to fumble through new ways of being. Some of our most basic habits, postures, thoughts, topics, or self-talk, can seem so small but difficult to change.

Humanity

I recently listened to an episode of This American Life in which they were exploring the old adage, “you will understand when you are older.” In the final act, they are talking to a man in the early stages of dementia. He describes what it is like to go to his doctor and be asked questions like “Who is the president?” and “What day is it?” and worst of all, they ask him to draw a analog clock depicting a particular time.

The man, a former engineer professor, is bothered that he struggles so much with this task. His life before was centered around numbers. He sits down one day and deconstructs the issue. He figures out and later articulates to his wife, the difficulty is that they are three layers. The hours, 1-12 (even though there are 24 hours in a day), the minutes (which correlate with the numbers 1-12 but represent 5’s) and on top of that, the larger hand tells the minutes while the smaller hand tells the hour. No wonder I am 30 and still have trouble reading an analog clock!

Anyway, this was an amazing story but that was not what fascinated me the most. What caught my attention was that his wife of decades kept feeding him words and prodding him along. It reminded me of many therapy sessions with parents and children. This constant need for your loved one to achieve in a way that society can recognize. It broke my heart. Here are people, young or old, trying to find their way in their own words, as fragile and disjointed as it may be, and we as a society have lost our ability to simply wait.

The evidence of this impatience and obsession with boiling every part of a human into a number is all around us. The survey of your doctor, what stories post in your Facebook feed, or what makes me most sad, the number of smiley or sad faces an elementary child comes home from school with.

I wish I could remember who said this, but I heard someone say that the true tragedy of our society isn’t what law has been or will be passed or the absolute joke of candidates in this presidential election, but instead the loss of humanity. The loss and oversimplification of the infinitely complex experience of being a human being. Our children are not numbers and our loved ones are not defined by the words they struggle to find. And each one of us deserves patience and quiet loving support to find who we are today even if it appears to be drastically different from yesterday.

So next time you feel like filling in a word or take a test score to mean something about you or a loved one’s intelligence, ask yourself, “does this really mean something or do I just feel a general pressure from society?” Or if you are really up for a challenge, “what is it about this score, lack of ability, or mistake that makes me feel uncomfortable enough to correct this person?”